Celebrate National Nutrition Month With These Educational Ideas

Nutritional education month can be funMarch is National Nutrition Month. Here are a few fun (and educational) ways to celebrate with your children.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics dedicates each March to a national campaign encouraging nutrition education leading to informed food choices and physical activity. As a dietitian and true nutrition nerd, this has always been one of my favorite months of the year.

While many parents certainly strive to promote nutritious eating habits for their children, this may not always be partnered with nutrition education. Example and modeling healthy eating patterns are absolutely some of the best ways for little ones to learn, yet I also believe children are never too young to grasp even more about the amazing health benefits of certain foods.

I don’t have firsthand experience with nutrition education taught in schools just yet, although many argue the lessons are often  “fear-based” with focus on weight management, as well as “good” and “bad” foods. The issue here is the possible development of disordered eating patterns and obsession with the perfect diet (orthorexia).

Related: Why our Children Deserve Much Better than the Typical Kid’s Menu

While some foods are definitely on my naughty list, I let my son know all foods fit as long as we choose nutrient-dense foods most of the time.

If you are interested in the concept and looking for a few fun education ideas, read below. 

Go, Slow, Woah Game

I have played this game with 3 year-olds through adults. Ask older children the reasoning behind their decisions.

What You’ll Need: 

– A red, green, and yellow bowl or basket

– Various food models or pictures of foods and drinks (include nutrient-dense foods, “junk” foods etc.)

How to Play: 

Using the stoplight system (green for go, yellow for slow, and red for woah) help children sort food pictures into the appropriate bowl. The concept is not to distinguish between good and bad foods, but to emphasize some foods are fine to eat lots of (fruits and veggies), while others are best left to special occasions. Slow foods will be less frequent and harder to determine. I usually place dried fruits and nuts/ seeds here, as they are energy dense. Since we choose to eat primarily plant-based foods, cheese and meat typically go here too.

For another example, I would place blueberries in the green bowl, dried blueberries in the yellow, and a blueberry toaster pastry in the red.

Related: These Small Businesses Encourage Kids to Get Creative with Food

Grocery Shopping Game

I have played this game with children ages 4-10 years old.

What You’ll Need:

– A basket or bag for “shopping”

– Various food models, real foods, or pictures of nutritious foods

How to Play:

Children can play alone or in teams. Call out a clue and encourage children to go “shopping” for foods that match the description. For example, “find foods that are high in vitamin C.” Your child may then select strawberries, oranges, or bell pepper. This may require some research on your part prior and some prompting and hints for the little ones. You may even choose to share why particular vitamins are important (vitamin C is disease-fighting for example). Here are a few ideas to eat you started:

Find foods high in vitamin A: carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, dried apricots

Find foods high in fiber: oatmeal, beans, whole-wheat bread, quinoa

Find foods rich in healthy fats: avocado, olive oil, tuna, and chia seeds

 

Make a Healthy Plate

I have completed this activity with 2-year olds through adults.

What You’ll Need: 

– A healthy plate model or picture to follow. My favorite healthy plate model can be found here. They even offer vegan and vegetarian models!

– Scissors, glue, a marker, and a paper plate

– Magazines and/or pictures of foods (you can also just draw directly onto the plate)

How to Create: 

Using the marker, divide your child’s plate into sections. Let them draw or cut and paste foods into the appropriate sections with your guidance. Emphasize the portions of each food group on the plate and discuss why some food choices are better to make more often than others for optimal health. Use this opportunity to discuss some of the foods that your family typically eats.

Happy National Nutrition Month!

Photo: Sunny studio/Shutterstock


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